Sweet Buns

Strollin' in the hoods
Strollin’ in the hoods

Weekend trip to an outlying island – always a fun day! This time, it was something rather special that I had been waiting for months!

Busy in the bun business
Busy in the bun business

Cheung Chang is a charming island just an hour off Hong Kong. I have been looking forward to it’s annual Bun Festival, which is when things get rather interesting, to say the least. This festival is an old Taoist ritual, held according to the Chinese lunar year, coinciding with Buddhas’ Birthday (remember to celebrate on May 17th!)

Bun scrambling towers getting bunned up
Bun scrambling towers getting bunned up

Throughout the festival week, there are various activities and festivities, in addition to the different types of buns that are everywhere! The highlight and culmination of the festival is the bun tower climbing competition, when brave pre-selected climbers compete on who reaches the top first. Before the actual competition, there is demonstrations and whatnot.

Climbing practice, no buns
Climbing practice, no buns

I don’t know how lively the island is outside of the bun-season, but now everything seemed to be revolving around those sesame, red bean, lotus or taro paste-filled steamed, white “pillows”. Besides the edible versions, one could buy keychains, toys, posters, and God knows what other necessary stuffs.

All bunned up
All bunned up

The story behind all this? Well, the all-knowing Wikipedia tells that the festivities are fishermen’s rituals for praying safety from the pirates! In ’78 one of the towers collapsed and killed 100 people. More precautions have been taken into action since. Also, the village goes vegetarian for one day (not when I visited, though) – all of the seafood restaurants as well as McDonalds apply this rule, too! If I had been there on that day, maybe McDo could have lured me in…

Scary dragon and Mickey
Scary dragon and Mickey

Festivals are always filled with happy people and interesting things; the Bun festival was definitely not different in that way, though it was quite like nothing else! And going to an island is always an experience, this time I even went to swim, for the first time this year! Once going into the sea, I cannot get enough.

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Gong hey fat choy – Chinese New Year

This year I am lucky to have experienced New Year’s celebrations twice – both of them completely different than anything I’ve experienced before! In Japan I missed the annual fireworks, but today my “loss” was made up in the Hong Kong’s Chinese New Years fireworks spectacle. Yesterday I, along with probably few million others, got to witness the New Year’s parade, and the day before that I was smushed in the crowds in Victoria Park’s market.

Enthusiastic shoppers in Victoria park
Enthusiastic shoppers in Victoria park

The Victoria Park (flower) market resembled the Finnish Vappu (mayday) market quite a lot, except that here you couldn’t really see any of the stalls since there was so many people. The flowers and fruit trees were beautiful, but pretty much everything else on sale was carnival crap. I am glad to have stumbled upon the market on my morning “jog” (which turned to walking and eating in the market area).

The (non-Chinese) carnival spirit
The (non-Chinese) carnival spirit

The Parade in Tsim Sha Tsui was rather popular, to say the least. We were there few hours early, and the streets were already packed. I have to say, that the parade was a slight disappointment, specially after such a long wait. It was interesting, and definitely worth it, but not that “Chinese” since half of the groups were from somewhere else.

Hong Kong Disneyland partying
Hong Kong Disneyland partying

The parade had some interesting costumes and talented performances, so it was nice to see. However, the subway ride afterwards was a “bit” hectic and cramped. It is funny how much I have been in crowds these past few days, although most of the shops and restaurants have been closed and the streets have seemed almost deserted. Almost!

Blasting in the air for 30 mins
Blasting in the air for 30 mins

Today’s fireworks were spectacular, and definitely made up for the ones I missed on our new year. I am not that familiar with the Chinese traditional customs, but I doubt Gagnam style as background music for fireworks has not been that common for celebrations. I wish I knew half as much about the Chinese New Year’s traditions as I know about the Japanese oshougatsu, but this weekend was interesting as it was, everyone was happy and festive and we got an extra day off! Looking forward to the next festival, which seems to be in few weeks!

Busy in China

Oh, Hong Kong. So different from Japan, though there are many things that are similar. I find the same products, sushi, and some of the same kanji, but other than that everything seems very different. So far I have pretty much been working every day, and then in the evenings wander around and fall to my bed. So much to see, but also so much time!

Quiet street in the afternoon
Quiet street in the afternoon

It seems odd to compare Hong Kong with Japan, since they both have their own characteristics. This place seems more international, yet also very traditional Chinese at the same time. So far, I have got my home-fix from Ikea, but also seen pig faces on dirty concrete ground, turtles piled in a cage with frogs, and the various Chinese medicine shops that sell bunch of smelly stuff.

Geese drying up on the street
Geese drying up on the street

Every day is an adventure, and I believe there will be new things to discover after few months. It definitely is an advantage, that I am accustomed to the Asian cultures before coming here, since now I know most (well, at least some) of the weird foods. My goal here is to eat as much fruits and study as much about mushrooms as possible, since it seems like they are pretty big deal here (and of course FSF plays a role in that…today I tasted shiitake, originated from Oita! So, I guess I can’t leave Beppu behind.

This could be Japan!
This could be Japan!

Now that the Chinese New Year’s is upon us, I believe that will give me something to write about. At some point I will also reveal you the Paul Yee Mansion penthouse – and of course some of the things I experience with the shrooms and Four Sigma Foods.

Yokohama humahuta

The title of this post will probably seem odd to all non-Finns, sorry about that. (The title is from a bad joke that involves a Japanese name, that’s actually all I can remember about it)

What's a city without a ferris wheel? Minato Mirai
What’s a city without a ferris wheel? Minato Mirai

Yokohama is the 3rd largest city in Japan with the population of 3 million people. It is conveniently located within half an hours train ride from Tokyo, and definitely interesting location to visit.

Skating rink by the red brick houses
Skating rink by the red brick houses

Yokohama is located next to the sea, and it was the first port to be opened to the outer world in the end of the Edo period in the late 1800’s. Originally, the city was divided for foreigners and the Japanese, and in between the Chinese built their own habitation.

A bit of China in Japan
A bit of China in Japan

Nowadays Yokohama is an interesting mix of the Western, Japanese and Chinese style with an area of contemporary and futuristic architecture. In one day you can go from the colonial infrastructure to China and see many interesting high rise buildings as well.

Cool as steel
Cool as steel

One can find various shopping, the tallest building in Japan (296m), Pokemon center, cup noodles museum (was all booked for the day I visited, boo), ramen museum, amusement park and God knows what else! (At least a museum for modern literature) in Yokohama. I also found The Little Mermaid!

Miniature version of the Little Mermaid
Miniature version of the Little Mermaid

I also found glass jars with Finnish words “sokeri” and “suola”, as well as the staple Moomin-stuff.

Sunset in Yokohama
Sunset in Yokohama

For something different than Tokio, or anything else in Japan, you should definitely spend a day in Yokohama.

Another tea ceremony

There are so many ways to drink tea.

Tea set, some of the tea selection and mikan fruit

More chilled atmosphere than the previous time, this tea sampling was followed by a delicious Vietnamese-Korean dinner (pictures of which I accidentally deleted). No rules, no cup turning, and no bowing included. Just friends, chilling and talking.

Master at work

If you buy tea that’s worth 200yen for 52grams and import water recommended for tea, I guess you are a tea master?

Special water for special drinks

Drinking tea does not have to be in perfectly harmonized environment, it can also be harmonized with the atmosphere.

Drinking from small cups allows room for more tea varieties

We sampled some 7 different teas, including Chinese green tea, Japanese sencha, Chinese black unflavored, and white tea (my favorite).

Delicious Vietnamese ice coffee was also sipped and sniffed (ahh, the aroma!)